Q & A With Green Party Presidential Candidate Jill Stein
Green Party candidate Jill Stein officially announced she is running in the 2016 presidential race on June 22, during an interview on Democracy Now!. She held a campaign kickoff event the following day at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, where antiwar activist Medea Benjamin and racial justice activist Marsha Coleman-Adebayo introduced and endorsed her campaign.
The main planks of Stein's presidential platform include a "Green New Deal," ending mass incarceration and police brutality, a $15 per hour federal minimum wage, a single-payer health-care system, universal public education and the abolition of student debt, breaking up big banks and nationalizing the Federal Reserve, initiating a global treaty to reverse climate change and ending extreme forms of extraction.
During her interview, she also announced the filing this week of a lawsuit against the Commission on Presidential Debates, on behalf of herself and other 2012 presidential and vice presidential candidates from independent third parties. The case argues that the Commission on Presidential Debates and the Federal Election Commission have violated federal election law.
While Stein called the campaign of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is now Hillary Clinton′s leading Democratic primary opponent, similar to her own, she expressed disappointment in his decision to run as a Democratic Party candidate, telling Democracy Now!:
I'm running in a party that also supports that vision, so when our campaign comes to an end, that vision will not die. It will not be absorbed back into a party that is essentially hostile to that vision.
Truthout sat down with Stein at the University of North Texas when she passed through Denton, Texas, for an environmental justice conference held in February 2015. Stein discussed the exploratory phase of her campaign, which included a "listening tour" of frontline communities struggling for justice, the Green New Deal promise and the politics of fear she says is holding back independent third parties. The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Candice Bernd: You recently [February 2015] announced the exploratory committee phase of your campaign, which has focused on a "listening tour" of frontline communities, including my own hometown here in Denton. Can you tell me about your goals for this tour?
Jill Stein: We very much wanted to be here in Denton for this conference, and to come to Denton and witness the miracle that took place here, and to be able to lift it up and talk about it. This is really, sort of in a nutshell, what [the Green Party] is trying to do, is to lift up these models of how we go forward. So, [Denton] is the very stop for us, coming from DC [where the exploratory committee was launched]. [Editor's note: Stein is referring to the fact that Denton was the first city in Texas to ban fracking via a ballot referendum.]
Our intent is to be here, in places like Denton, at the oil workers' strike in Houston, on the border town in Laredo, talking to everyday people who are on the front lines of justice and the struggle for the climate, economic and workers' justice, because the front lines of those struggles should be the front lines of our political discourse, but they're not. This is what's traditionally locked out. So, this campaign, our mission, is to provide a vehicle for the frontline communities to be the front lines of the presidential race.
You were previously the Green Party nominee in the 2012 presidential race. What compels you to again explore the possibility of seeking the party's nomination for the 2016 race?
One of the reasons why I was compelled to jump in has to do with the political vacuum that became really evident in the 2014 midterms, which were really a loss for Democrats—but not a victory for Republicans. So, it was wanting to respond to this political vacuum as more and more people peel away from the Democratic Party, having essentially thrown in the towel on a party that long ago threw in the towel on us and our movements. There's an incredible window of opportunity, and nature abhors a vacuum. If that political vacuum is not filled with a narrative of frontline struggle and triumph, it will be filled by other, more nefarious, narratives.
History demonstrates this amply. At times of great crisis things can go either way, and there are all kinds of makings of a fascist state that are underway already. So we felt it wasn't something that could wait.
How is the Green Party funded, and how do we get money out of politics?
[The Green Party doesn't] accept corporate money, and most of the Green parties have adopted a policy where they don't accept money from people who are the officers, lobbyists or otherwise are the surrogates for a corporation. So there's a firewall between us and corporations. If you're a corporate CEO, you can contribute money to the Green Party, as long as you don't hire a lobbyist. But if you are a CEO that hires a lobbyist, then you have a vested interest in a certain outcome, and that's where we draw the line.
Most of our money comes from small donors, just everyday people. We don't have super PACs and things like that. There's a $2,600 limit to a donation. That is small potatoes, and we have very few people who contribute at that level. I personally think it's great, if you have to work in the system, to have donors that you don't have contact with because just asking creates an expectation of a repayment. I think it's better that candidates are not in the business of fundraising at all. Anonymous online donations where people donate because they support the cause, not because they think you're going to do something for them or there's some implied payback, are really great.
But ultimately, we need to have a system of public funding, and the way that can be affordable is by making the public airwaves free for public purpose. The minute you do that, the bottom falls out of campaign funding. It's no longer needed, and they can raise all the money in the world that they want, but they don't have an advantage for it. We could solve this problem in a heartbeat, but you can't solve it unless you also democratize the airwaves and make them a tool for democracy and for educating the public about things that matter, like elections. The minute you do that, the funding campaigns go away. It's totally within arm's reach.
Many climate scientists have pointed out that we are already "locked in" to a certain amount of climate change. So, I'm wondering how the ideas like adaptation and resilience to climate impacts fit into the Green New Deal promise? Why do you believe a Green New Deal is the answer to many of the nation's economic and social crises?
I transitioned into doing climate work because from my knowledge of science and how you read the data, I certainly share the perspective that we can't take a single day for granted—that we have to work as fast as humanly possible to completely zero out climate emissions, but we have to do more than that as well.
Restoring ecosystem resilience is part of the Green New Deal, which we don't often talk about because we're usually focused on the headlines: energy, transportation and food. Those are the big three for climate emissions, and they're critical for economic security, so that's kind of where the focus is, but [the Green Party] equally talks about so-called "pink jobs:" the jobs of meeting human needs.
We also talk about the jobs of ecosystem needs and restoring ecosystems, in the same way that the New Deal had a big conservation component to it. There's a big component of [restoration] as well in the Green New Deal.
We look at restoring shorelines, restoring deltas, restoring forests, restoring grazing systems and so on, because once you begin to do that, you incredibly magnify everything else that you do [in regards to mitigating the impacts of climate change]. To zero out climate emissions, you also have to accelerate natural carbon sequestration through ecosystems. That's the only way to do it reliably. There are many forms of [restoration] which also create jobs and save us humongous amounts of money in the long haul.
The Green New Deal virtually pays for itself just in terms of the health savings alone because what injures the health of the climate also injures human health. We're so accustomed that we don't recognize it, but our major health epidemics—from asthma, cancers, heart disease, lung disease and learning disabilities—have enormous ties to air pollution that results from fossil fuels. This has been documented by a whole variety of studies.
It was also documented by Cuba when their oil pipeline went down. Without changing their health care system, when they zeroed out their fossil fuel emissions, Cuba got healthy. It was not only reduction of emissions; it was also that they transitioned to a sustainable and healthy food system, and a sustainable and healthy transportation system, and those are essentially the underpinnings of modern disease—between pollution and a poisonous, predatory food system and passive transportation.
If those things are done well, the need for our health care system—which is really a sick-care system—is enormously reduced, and there are some really fabulous numbers around that. We spend around $3 trillion a year in sick-care expenses, triple what we spend on our military-industrial-security complex. But 75 percent of our health-care burden is related to chronic diseases that are largely preventable by doing what it takes to fix the climate. So this is a win-win scenario. It's a good-news story.
Can you discuss the lawsuit initiated by the Libertarian Party against the Commission on Presidential Debates, and how the Green Party became involved in that suit after you were arrested for simply showing up at the presidential debates in 2012?
[Editor's note: After Truthout sat down with Stein for this interview in February, Our America Initiative announced in April that it would pursue a separate lawsuit against the Commission on Presidential Debates on behalf of 2012 presidential and vice presidential candidates from independent third parties.]
The Libertarians initiated this case, and then they brought [the Green Party] into it—so the Libertarians, Greens, Gary Johnson, myself, my running mates and probably others as well. They kind of initiated this whole process and they've put together a wonderful plan, which we've been collaborating on. [The Libertarian Party] reached out to Rocky Anderson, a former presidential candidate himself, who was also locked out [of the presidential debates], who is a very credible, reputable constitutional lawyer. [The Libertarian Party has] another constitutional lawyer, [Bruce Fein,] from the Reagan administration, who served as an assistant attorney general. [The two lawyers] are very highly regarded and come from opposite ends of the political spectrum, not opposite exactly, but there's a big space between them.
They have a very interesting and credible legal strategy, which hasn't been tested before, but is thought to have a reasonable chance in court. We are well aware of [the fact that] what happens in the court can in turn depend on what happens in the court of public opinion, and this is an issue that Americans are really, extremely pissed off about—about not having choices and not being informed about the choices they do have. So, I think all bets are off as to what's going to happen.
In my home state of Massachusetts, we have fought this battle and we actually won it a couple times, and when we did, it wasn't over because they have ways to suppress your voice even when you're in the debate. But if we maintain the same kind of organization and offensive strategy, we'll be ready to take that on as well.
It's not impossible. What are the odds? It's hard to say. It would have been considered a "black swan" event—statistically very unlikely. But I think we're in an age of the statistically unlikely. We are at an extreme aberration of history right now, and it's only going to get more extreme. We're in uncharted territory right now.
What do you have to say to those who are skeptical of the system no matter who's in charge, to those who believe it's the system itself that can't deliver the change we need?
Well, if [the Green Party] were to get in [to the presidency], it would be proof in the principle itself, that we can do things like what Denton did [in banning fracking]. Who would have thought?
The predator state, the economic and political elite got so sure of themselves that they started doing very unstrategic things. It was total overkill, and that's kind of where we are politically right now. When you look at the amount of money that's being poured in, how incredibly toxic it is, and how incredibly pissed off and alienated people are by the attack campaigns and all of that, it's really driving people out of their court. So, our objective is to let people know there's somewhere to go to. You don't have to just throw in the towel, abandon ship, jump into the ocean and drown. There's a lifeboat to come to.
We wouldn't presume that the odds are in our favor at this point, but the odds are shifting. Let's test those waters! Let's find out! Who would have thought that [the Greek leftist party] Syriza would go from three percent to 70 percent in five years? We need to get started. At some point, the tide is going to turn, and it may turn after there are 100 Katrinas up and down all of our coasts, but it's somewhere along the line. It may be when the next Iraq and Afghanistan disasters are blowing back at us, or with the next economic meltdown—which we are no more secure of now then we were in 2008 because Dodd-Frank has been so utterly neutered and castrated.
If you look at where public opinion is, it's already in our court. It's just that most people don't know that there's an alternative. They don't have faith in it. They haven't proven our credibility—all that. There are a billion organizational reasons why we're not leaping ahead consistently with public opinion, but we have an incredible, unprecedented opportunity to grow as fast and hard as we can right now.
It's very hard to reinvent the wheel constantly, but there are so many of these local battles. If we can win referendums, we can take over the city council.
How do social movements like the Occupy movement, which swept the nation in 2011, and now the Black Lives Matter movement, which emphasize direct action and civil disobedience tactics, complement a political and electoral strategy?
When you look at U.S. history, and progress on the abolition of slavery, there was a social movement and a political movement, in the form of the Liberty Party, whose agenda was then adopted by the Republican Party—which was actually an independent third party at the time that grew very rapidly during a time of great social upheaval. Other examples are the women's movement, which also had the [National Woman's Party] in addition to the social movement, which involved people going to jail and going on hunger strikes.
If you move forward to the labor movement, and the socialist and progressive labor parties and the farmworker parties, it was a time of direct action and very difficult struggles in the street. But those struggles then became political. In the words of Frederick Douglass, "power concedes nothing without a demand," and that demand needs to happen in the street, in our communities, in our schools and in the voting booth. Because failing that, all the progress that we make in the street and in our communities will be rolled back if we simply wave the white flag of surrender inside the voting booth.
History says these movements didn't move forward inside the established parties at the time. They needed independent parties in order to really do justice to their agendas. So I think history is full of precedent, and as you're pointing out, the Black Lives Matter movement, tar sands, the eviction blockades, these are really powerful and important movements. There's a lot of discussion in the climate movement [of] moving from marching to more than marching.
Before I went into campaign mode, I was working with the Global Climate Convergence whose focus was moving from a climate march to a climate strike, and I think it's a really interesting concept that could use a lot more discussion, but we're kind of at that point now. We need to move beyond simply marching.
These things [direct action and electoral politics] go together. During the last election, I was arrested three times in three direct actions to show solidarity and support for the evictions blockades in Philadelphia, for the tar sands blockade here in Texas, and for the principles of democracy and open debates.
Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush are both 2016 presidential candidates. I was hoping you could talk about the role of family dynasties in the presidency and what that says about our political system.
I think the fact that the dynasties are out in front already, with the donors, with the networks, with the machines, speaks volumes about what our political system is in this country. This is just one more nail in the coffin, and I think people are ready to bury that coffin and to move on, but we desperately need a new narrative.
The media, with the exception of Truthout and the independent media, is there to advance the predatory narrative and to suppress the alternative narrative. It's not that hard to propagate our alternative narrative when we have the tools.
We can do it in the same way we turned around the [Federal Communications Commission on net neutrality], which was an incredible achievement over the course of the last year that had a lot to do with our communications, and with direct action. It's another example of how we need a multiple pronged strategy. There's enormous capacity here to build on. Clinton versus Bush, which is kind of the way things are going right now, makes the situation as extreme as it really is. It's a good context in which to have this discussion.
What's your response to the idea of voting for the "lesser of two evils"? Many feel they are locked into this conundrum in the voting booth, where they want to vote for the third party candidate who reflects their values more, but end up voting for a major party candidate because they don't want their opponent to win.
It's important to recognize that we are force-fed a lot of propaganda here and have been for a long time. So it's really important to separate the mythology from the facts on the ground. We've had this sort of politics of fear, certainly since Bush-Nader-Gore. The politics of fear: that we don't vote our values; that we have to vote our fears. We worry about unintended consequences rather than the things that we actually want to advance. That philosophy, that strategy, now has a track record.
We had Bush and all the terrible things under Bush. Then we had Obama, even with the Democratic Congress in both houses for two years. And what did we get under Obama? It was Bush on steroids. We continued to have more of that because the electorate reacted against Obama—because what was he doing? He was continuing to bail out Wall Street. He was looking the other way at predatory mortgages and the continuing foreclosure crisis, the offshoring of our jobs. On all cylinders, Obama really led the charge in the absolute wrong direction, and so people then rejected the Democratic Congress when they then had the option.
It makes the point that the politics of fear has delivered everything we were afraid of. The politics of fear doesn't get you where you need to go. Whether you're backsliding at 100-miles-an-hour or 80-miles-an-hour, it doesn't matter; we're still backsliding. We fundamentally need to stop this backsliding and move forward. Only we can do that. They're not going to do that for us. We can't just work around the margins of our electoral system because if we do all the right things in the street, but continue to be moved by the economic and political elite, it doesn't matter because they steamroll over the small progress that we're able to make.
The bottom line is the politics of fear delivers what we're afraid of. We need to look at those facts on the ground. When you have a friendly Democrat who speaks your language and uses the right buzzwords, of course you want to vote for that person over the vicious Republican, but they're both funded by the same guys. The Democrats have every bit as bad a record as Republicans.
It's important to remember what we did under Richard Nixon, as demonic a Republican as any. We did amazing things: on women's rights, the war, establishing the [Environmental Protection Agency] and the Clean Air Act. We did that because we mobilized, and political activism became a way of life. It's going to have to be again. I think for a lot of people it's no longer a matter of giving up on the Democratic Party. People already have, and 2014 was the evidence of that.
So are we going to confine ourselves to those two choices? It's outrageous, because to do so really tells the largest sector of the population not to vote. It locks them out of the election, and then all hope really is lost.
Watch Stein officially announce her presidential run in an interview on Democracy Now!:
Copyright, Truthout.org. Reprinted with permission.
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Google's New Timelapse Shows 37 Years of Climate Change Anywhere on Earth, Including Your Neighborhood
Google Earth's latest feature allows you to watch the climate change in four dimensions.
The new feature, called Timelapse, is the biggest update to Google Earth since 2017. It is also, as far as its developers know, the largest video taken of Earth on Earth. The feature compiles 24 million satellite photos taken between 1984 and 2020 to show how human activity has transformed the planet over the past 37 years.
"Visual evidence can cut to the core of the debate in a way that words cannot and communicate complex issues to everyone," Google Earth Director Rebecca Moore wrote in a blog post Thursday.
Moore herself has been directly impacted by the climate crisis. She was one of many Californians evacuated because of wildfires last year. However, the new feature allows people to witness more remote changes, such as the melting of ice caps.
"With Timelapse in Google Earth, we have a clearer picture of our changing planet right at our fingertips — one that shows not just problems but also solutions, as well as mesmerizingly beautiful natural phenomena that unfold over decades," she wrote.
Some climate impacts that viewers can witness include the melting of 12 miles of Alaska's Columbia Glacier between 1984 and 2020, Fortune reported. They can also watch the disintegration of the Pine Island Glacier in Antarctica. The changes are not limited to the impacts of global warming, however.
Moore said the developers had identified five themes, and Google Earth offers a guided tour for each of them. They are:
- Forest change, such as deforestation in Bolivia for soybean farming
- Urban growth, such as the quintupling of Las Vegas sprawl
- Warming temperatures, such as melting glaciers and ice sheets
- Sources of energy, such as the impacts of coal mining on Wyoming's landscape
- Fragile beauty, such as the flow of Bolivia's Mamoré River
However, the feature also allows you to see smaller-scale change. You can enter any location into the search bar, including your local neighborhood, CNN explained. The feature does not offer the detail of Street View, Gizmodo noted. It is intended to show large changes over time, rather than smaller details like the construction of a road or home.
The images for Timelapse were made possible through collaboration with NASA, the U.S. Geological Survey's Landsat satellites and the European Union's Copernicus program and Sentinel satellites. Carnegie Mellon University's CREATE Lab helped develop the technology.
To use Timelapse, you can either visit g.co/Timelapse directly or click on the Ship's Wheel icon in Google Earth, then select Timelapse. Moore said the feature would be updated annually with new images of Earth's alterations.
"We hope that this perspective of the planet will ground debates, encourage discovery and shift perspectives about some of our most pressing global issues," she wrote.
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By Asher Rosinger
Imagine seeing a news report about lead contamination in drinking water in a community that looks like yours. It might make you think twice about whether to drink your tap water or serve it to your kids – especially if you also have experienced tap water problems in the past.
In a new study, my colleagues Anisha Patel, Francesca Weaks and I estimate that approximately 61.4 million people in the U.S. did not drink their tap water as of 2017-2018. Our research, which was released in preprint format on April 8, 2021, and has not yet been peer reviewed, found that this number has grown sharply in the past several years.
Other research has shown that about 2 million Americans don't have access to clean water. Taking that into account, our findings suggest that about 59 million people have tap water access from either their municipality or private wells or cisterns, but don't drink it. While some may have contaminated water, others may be avoiding water that's actually safe.
Water insecurity is an underrecognized but growing problem in the U.S. Tap water distrust is part of the problem. And it's critical to understand what drives it, because people who don't trust their tap water shift to more expensive and often less healthy options, like bottled water or sugary drinks.
I'm a human biologist and have studied water and health for the past decade in places as diverse as Lowland Bolivia and northern Kenya. Now I run the Water, Health, and Nutrition Laboratory at Pennsylvania State University. To understand water issues, I talk to people and use large datasets to see whether a problem is unique or widespread, and stable or growing.
An Epidemic of Distrust
According to our research, there's a growing epidemic of tap water distrust and disuse in the U.S. In a 2020 study, anthropologist Sera Young and I found that tap water avoidance was declining before the Flint water crisis that began in 2014. In 2015-2016, however, it started to increase again for children.
Our new study found that in 2017-2018, the number of Americans who didn't drink tap water increased at an alarmingly high rate, particularly for Black and Hispanic adults and children. Since 2013-2014 – just before the Flint water crisis began – the prevalence of adults who do not drink their tap water has increased by 40%. Among children, not consuming tap has risen by 63%.
To calculate this change, we used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a nationally representative survey that releases data in two-year cycles. Sampling weights that use demographic characteristics ensure that the people being sampled are representative of the broader U.S. population.
Racial Disparities in Tap Water Consumption
Communities of color have long experienced environmental injustice across the U.S. Black, Hispanic and Native American residents are more likely to live in environmentally disadvantaged neighborhoods, with exposure to water that violates quality standards.
Our findings reflect these experiences. We calculated that Black and Hispanic children and adults are two to three times more likely to report not drinking their tap water than members of white households. In 2017-2018, roughly 3 out of 10 Black adults and children and nearly 4 of 10 Hispanic adults and children didn't drink their tap water. Approximately 2 of 10 Asian Americans didn't drink from their tap, while only 1 of 10 white Americans didn't drink their tap water.
When children don't drink any water on a given day, research shows that they consume twice as many calories from sugary drinks as children who drink water. Higher sugary drink consumption increases risk of cavities, obesity and cardiometabolic diseases. Drinking tap water provides fluoride, which lowers the risk of cavities. Relying on water alternatives is also much more expensive than drinking tap water.
A4: Choosing to drink fluoridated tap water over sugar-sweetened beverages to quench thirst is vital to protecting… https://t.co/3tm8wuWjeZ— Oral Health Watch (@Oral Health Watch)1600795750.0
What Erodes Trust
News reports – particularly high-visibility events like advisories to boil water – lead people to distrust their tap water even after the problem is fixed. For example, a 2019 study showed that water quality violations across the U.S. between 2006 and 2015 led to increases in bottled water purchases in affected counties as a way to avoid tap water, and purchase rates remained elevated after the violation.
The Flint water crisis drew national attention to water insecurity, even though state and federal regulators were slow to respond to residents' complaints there. Soon afterward, lead contamination was found in the water supply of Newark, New Jersey; the city is currently replacing all lead service lines under a legal settlement. Elsewhere, media outlets and advocacy groups have reported finding tap water samples contaminated with industrial chemicals, lead, arsenic and other contaminants.
Many other factors can cause people to distrust their water supply, including smell, taste and appearance, as well as lower income levels. Location is also an issue: Older U.S. cities with aging infrastructure are more prone to water shutoffs and water quality problems.
It's important not to blame people for distrusting what comes out of their tap, because those fears are rooted in history. In my view, addressing water insecurity requires a two-part strategy: ensuring that everyone has access to clean water, and increasing trust so people who have safe water will use it.
As part of his proposed infrastructure plan, President Joe Biden is asking Congress for $111 billion to improve water delivery systems, replace lead pipelines and tackle other contaminants. The plan also proposes improvements for small water systems and underserved communities.
These are critical steps to rebuild trust. Yet, in my view, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency should also provide better public education about water quality testing and targeted interventions for vulnerable populations, such as children and underserved communities. Initiatives to simplify and improve water quality reports can help people understand what's in their water and what they can do if they think something is wrong with it.
Who delivers those messages is important. In areas like Flint, where former government officials have been indicted on charges including negligence and perjury in connection with the water crisis, the government's word alone won't rebuild trust. Instead, community members can fill this critical role.
Another priority is the 13%-15% of Americans who rely on private well water, which is not regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act. These households are responsible for their own water quality testing. Public funding would help them test it regularly and address any problems.
Public distrust of tap water in the U.S. reflects decades of policies that have reduced access to reliable, safe drinking water in communities of color. Fixing water lines is important, but so is giving people confidence to turn on the tap.
Asher Rosinger is an assistant professor of biobehavioral health, anthropology, and demography and director of the Water, Health, and Nutrition Laboratory at Penn State University.
Disclosure statement: Asher Rosinger receives funding from the National Science Foundation on an unrelated project. This work was supported by the Ann Atherton Hertzler Early Career Professorship funds, and the Penn State Population Research Institute (NICHD P2CHD041025). The funders had no role in the research or interpretation of results.
Reposted with permission from The Conversation.
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A new report promoting urgent climate action in Australia has stirred debate for claiming that global temperatures will rise past 1.5 degrees Celsius in the next decade.
Australia's Climate Council released the report on Thursday. The council is an independent organization of climate scientists and experts on health, renewable energy and policy who work to inform the Australian public on the climate crisis. But their latest claim is causing controversy.
"Multiple lines of evidence show that limiting global warming to 1.5°C above the preindustrial level, without significant overshoot and subsequent drawdown, is now out of reach due to past inaction," Dr. Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research and Prof. Christopher Field of the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment wrote in the foreword. "The science is telling us that global average temperature rise will likely exceed 1.5°C during the 2030s, and that long-term stabilization at warming at or below 1.5°C will be extremely challenging."
The report is titled "Aim high, go fast: Why emissions need to plummet this decade," and as the name suggests, it is ultimately concerned with urging more robust climate action on the part of the Australian government. The report calls for the country to reduce emissions by 75 percent by 2030 and reach net zero by 2035 in order to achieve the long-term goals of the Paris agreement, which means limiting warming to well below two degrees Celsius.
"The world achieving net zero by 2050 is at least a decade too late and carries a strong risk of irreversible global climate disruption at levels inconsistent with maintaining well-functioning human societies," the authors wrote.
The report further argues that global temperatures are likely to exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius in the 2030s based on existing temperature increases; locked-in warming from emissions that have already occurred; evidence from past climate changes and the percentage of the carbon budget that has already been used.
The report isn't a call to give up on the Paris agreement. It is possible that global temperatures could swell past 1.5 degrees Celsius but still be reduced by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Even if temperatures do exceed 1.5 degrees, every degree of warming that can be prevented makes a difference.
"Basically we can still hold temperature rise to well below 2C and do that without overshoot and drawdown," Will Steffen, lead report author from the Australian National University's Climate Change Institute, told Australia's ABC News. "Every tenth of a degree actually does matter — 1.8C is better than 1.9C, and is much better than 2C."
However, some outside scientists question both the accuracy and effectiveness of the report's claim. Both Adjunct Professor Bill Hare from Murdoch University and Dr. Carl-Freidrich Schleussner from Humboldt University told ABC News they have been trying to contact the Climate Council about its 1.5 overshoot claim for months. They said that it went against other major reports, including the UN Environment Program Gap Report and the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Special Report on 1.5˚C.
"The big challenge their report reinforces is the need for urgent action to get on that 1.5C pathway, [so] it's very paradoxical to me that they've chosen to attack that target," Dr. Hare told ABC News.
However, Scientist Andy Pitman from the Center of Excellence for Climate Extremes at the University of New South Wales told The Guardian that the report's assessment was correct.
"It's simply not possible to limit warming to 1.5C now," he said. "There's too much inertia in the system and even if you stopped greenhouse gas emissions today, you would still reach 1.5C [of heating]."
However, one aspect everyone agreed on involved the importance of lowering emissions as soon as possible.
"[There is] absolute fundamental agreement on the task at hand, which is to get emissions to plummet," Simon Bradshaw, report author and Climate Council head of research, told The Guardian.
French winemakers are facing devastating grape loss from the worst frost in decades, preceded by unusually warm temperatures, highlighting the dangers to the sector posed by climate change.
"An important share of the harvest has been lost. It's too early to give a percentage estimate, but in any case it's a tragedy for the winegrowers who have been hit," said Christophe Chateau, director of communications at the Bordeaux Wine Council, told CNN.
Climate change, caused by the extraction and combustion of fossil fuels, has pushed winegrowing seasons earlier, putting crops at higher risk of cold — and wildfires supercharged by climate change also threaten American vignerons and farmworkers as well.
"I think it's good for people to understand that this is nature, climate change is real, and to be conscious of the effort that goes into making wine and the heartbreak that is the loss of a crop," Jeremy Seysses of Domaine Dujac in Burgundy's Côte de Nuits told Wine Enthusiast.
As reported by Wine Enthusiast:
Last week, images of candlelit French vineyards flooded social media. Across the country, winemakers installed bougies, or large wax-filled metal pots, among the vines to prevent cold air from settling in during an especially late frost.
With temperatures in early April as low as 22°F, and following an unseasonably warm March, this year's frost damage may be the worst in history for French winegrowers. Every corner of France reports considerable losses, from Champagne to Provence, and Côtes de Gascogne to Alsace. As a result, there will likely be very little French wine from the 2021 vintage reaching U.S. shores.
For a deeper dive:
- Climate Crisis Could Destroy Most Vineyards - EcoWatch ›
- Sustainable Wine Is Less Damaging to the Environment, But How ... ›
- In Europe, Climate Change Brings New Crops and Ideas - EcoWatch ›
- California Winery Cuts Carbon Emissions With Lighter Bottles ... ›
Climate change could make it harder to find a good cup of coffee, new research finds. A changing climate might shrink suitable areas for specialty coffee production without adaptation, making coffee taste blander and impacting the livelihoods of small farms in the Global South.
Published in Scientific Reports on Wednesday, the study focused on regions in Ethiopia, Africa's largest coffee-producing nation. Although studies have previously documented the impact of climate change on coffee production, what's less understood is how varying climates could change the flavors of specialty coffee, the researchers wrote.
The team aimed to fill this gap. Their results provide a glimpse into how future climate change could impact local regions and economies that rely on coffee cultivation, underscoring the value of local adaptation measures.
Researchers analyzed how 19 different climate factors, such as mean temperatures and rainfall levels, would affect the cultivation of five distinct specialty coffee types in the future, the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) reported. Although researchers found that areas suitable for growing "average quality coffee" may actually increase over time with climate change, regions where specialty coffee is grown will shrink — a pending problem in light of the global demand for high-quality coffee.
"This is an issue not just for coffee lovers, but for local agricultural value creation," Abel Chemura, the study's lead author, told the PIK.
Coffee profiles rely on specific climate patterns for their unique flavors, levels of acidity and fragrances. But in a warmer climate, the coffee cherry — the fruit picked from a coffee plant — matures faster than the bean inside, making for a lower quality cup of coffee, the PIK reported.
For example, the sought-after Yirgacheffe variety of coffee, which is cultivated in southwestern Ethiopia, could lose more than 40 percent of its suitable growth area by the end of the century, PIK reported. This could impact small farms and threaten Ethiopia's economy, the researchers noted.
"If one or more coffee regions lose their specialty status due to climate change this has potentially grave ramifications for the smallholder farmers in the region," Christoph Gornott, co-author of the study, told the PIK. "If they were forced to switch to growing conventional, less palatable and bitter coffee types, they would all of the sudden compete with industrial production systems elsewhere that are more efficient." In a country where coffee exports account for nearly a third of all agricultural exports, "this could prove fatal," Gornott added.
Climate change impacts on coffee production are not unique to Ethiopia. In Columbia's mountainous coffee-growing regions, temperatures are warming by 0.5 degrees Fahrenheit every decade, according to Yale Environment 360. Extreme levels of precipitation, which are becoming more common, also impact production, as they spread insect and fungal diseases.
"In earlier times, the climate was perfect for coffee," one small farmer in Columbia told Yale Environment 360. "In the period of flowering, there was summer. During harvest, there was winter. But from 2008 onward, this changed and we now don't know when it will be summer, when the coffee will blossom."
But researchers say there are glimmers of hope, emphasizing the importance of local adaptation measures that are designed for particular climates and communities. For example, in regions where temperature is an important factor for specialty coffee cultivation, the researchers suggest improved agroforestry systems that could maintain canopy temperatures, a promising step toward sustaining the "availability and taste of one of the world's most beloved beverages and, more importantly, on economic opportunities in local communities of the Global South," Gornott concluded.